Since 2016, NGOs, human rights activists, the Organization of American States and, more recently, the UN —since 2020— have been producing numerous important documents on human rights violations under the governments of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.
I must be more precise: they have generated thousands of descriptive, testimonial, and analytical pages on practices such as torture, sexual assault, kidnapping, extortion operations, violations of legal procedures, disproportionate use of force, attacks on family members and more. Documents that reveal, like perhaps no other, the dark nature of the regime. Its deep character.
In the case of the UN, the Fact-Finding Mission has produced three exceptional documents – in September 2020, September 2021, and September 2022 – that constitute a series that demands careful attention of those who believe in Democracy. With each delivery, the understanding of the State that tortures and violates human rights becomes clearer. Based on solid complaints and testimonies from victims, family members, lawyers, and former officials of the organizations that commit these crimes, a significant amount of verified, organized, and analyzed information has been produced.
The rigorous and systematic investigations of the Independent Mission to Determine the Facts in Venezuela have managed to produce fundamental knowledge on how there are organizations —not only the Military counterintelligence agency of Venezuela (DGCIM) and the National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) — whose job is to violate human rights. Nothing less. And for this they have the unrestricted support of the top government leaders and state institutions.
The report —which will be presented for debate tomorrow at the UN Assembly— concludes that the two organizations —DGCIM and SEBIN— have become organizations “prone” to committing crimes. (I recall that General Manuel Cristopher Figuera, after breaking with the regime, shared a similar diagnosis with a journalist. That, upon arriving at SEBIN, he had been surprised by “the prevailing culture” of human rights violations).
That “culture”, that “propensity”, comes from a structure where there are, as in any corporation, hierarchies, roles, and positions. In short, these are specialized companies, in which there are professionals of bodily suffering, who have been trained by Cuban experts who have come to the country, specifically to instruct the Venezuelan henchmen, so that they punish the detainees without mercy. and in a sustained way, until they are stripped of their human condition.
These two structures —DGCIM and SEBIN— respond to a chain of command, to a decision center. This may seem obvious, on a first impression. However, what the successive reports of the Mission to Determine the Facts show is that it is the leadership of the regime, directly, that directs the two structures.
Not only the testimonies of victims and former officials document this. The invaluable information provided by General Manuel Figuera points in the same direction: Nicolas Maduro, Diosdado Cabello, Delsy Rodriguez and Tarek El Aissami are in charge of the machinery. They are the ones who dictate the orders; they are the ones who set the Hernandez Dala, Calderon Chirinos, Hannover Guerrero, Gramcko Arteaga, Franco Quintero and others in motion.
The fact that the highest level of power in the regime is also the first link in the chain of command of the structures in charge of the systematic violations of human rights leads us to a conclusion that cannot be avoided by either people who believe in democracy or the international organizations, nor by the International Criminal Court: If the two heads of the regime, Nicolas Maduro and Diosdado Cabello head the chain of command of criminal organizations, impunity is fully guaranteed. There is no chance that, with Maduro and Cabello in power, torture will stop in Venezuela.
Such a reality is further supported by the facts: In the period between 2020 and 2022, neither in the SEBIN nor in the DGCIM have there been changes that reveal the intention to alter these policies. Look at what the latest report says in this regard:
“The Mission will demonstrate, with reasonable grounds to believe, that several people participated in crimes and violations, and, therefore, their responsibility deserves a deeper investigation. Almost all of these people, and in particular those who held key positions, continue to hold positions in the DGCIM or SEBIN. Several of the people involved have been promoted within the same structures, even as recently as August 29, 2022. Those who no longer work for the DGCIM or SEBIN have been promoted to other positions in different organizations or have retired from service. There is no evidence that domestic proceedings are currently being carried out against any of these individuals.”
There is no punishment nor will there ever be. Moreover, because the top chief of the DGCIM, General Hernandez Dala, is simultaneously the person in charge of the personal security of Nicolas Maduro and his family. In fact, the report indicates that even Cilia Flores, Maduro’s wife, has ordered actions from the intelligence bodies.
When the positions, relationships, friendships, and commitments of this oligarchy is analyzed —because that is what it is about, an oligarchy—, bonded by the crimes they have committed together against thousands of innocent people, no other conclusion is possible. Based strictly on the facts: it will not change. They will not stop torturing and sexually abusing detainees. They will not punish anyone. They will continue to profit from the detainees. This is a business where, at the cost of the lives and suffering of others, they make a profit and keep the regime in power.